The 100th anniversary of pH (1909-2009). Negative logarithms for measuring hydrogen ions: are they essential in medicine? Part I

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Francesco Sgambato *
Sergio Prozzo
Ester Sgambato
Rosa Sgambato
Luca Milano
(*) Corresponding Author:
Francesco Sgambato |


Introduction: It has been 100 years since the concept of pH (1909-2009) was ‘‘invented’’ by the Danish chemist-mathematician Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen (1868-1939) in the chemistry laboratories of the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen. The anniversary provides an opportunity to examine the crucial importance in human life of acid-base balance.
Materials and methods: The authors review the historical process that led to the creation of the pH scale, with citation of passages from the original work of Sørensen published 100 years ago. This is followed by a critical analysis of the debate regarding the use of logarithmstomeasure hydrogen ion concentrations based on data from scientific papers published over the past 50 years (1960-2010).
Results and discussion: The authors conclude that the concept of acid-base balance can be approached and taught in a simpler, more exciting, and even pleasant fashion without using the infamous and abstruse Henderson-Hasselbalch equation. The whole rationale underlying the understanding and clinical application of this vital topic is clearly and unquestionably inherent simpler, more manageable formula introduced by Henderson (without logs), which is useful and quite adequate for use in medical education.

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